CRTC approves BCE Inc. takeover of CTVglobemedia

There are promises to create new jobs in newsrooms in Western Canda when BCE Inc. takes command of CTVglobemedia next month. The promises come in the CRTC decision allowing the takeover on March 7.

The CRTC ordered BCE to invest $245 million in the Canadian broadcasting industry. Money from the “tangible benefits” package must be spent on a variety of measures. According to Bell Canada’s press release, that means “80 new TV news jobs in Western Canada for new morning, noon and afternoon news programs” and allowing satellite carriage for at least 43 additional television servies, as well as cash to sustain the financially troubled A-Channel stations for at least three years. The package also allots $100 million for the development of dramas and comedy series. The popular CTV comedy Corner Gas is often used as proof as to why the tangible benefits program works (a result of the last CTVglobemedia merger).

Not so fast, technology and law columnist Michael Geist warns.

In an article he wrote for The Tyee titled, “When media giants merge, what’s the worry?”, Geist says that the CRTC’s demand for a benefits package will only deliver short term gains and will eventually stifle the distribution of the very content supporters of the packaged hoped to create.

Media mergers in the United States, he argues, are correctly focused on long-term competitiveness and marketplace innovation.

Canadians should take a page from the Americans, Geist maintains. He compares the BCE/CTVglobemedia merger to the merger of Comcast and broadcaster NBCU in the U.S.